Don’t Get Burned by Fake IDs in Your Cannabis Dispensary

As the cannabis industry continues to grow and become more accessible, the focus on dispensaries turns to maintaining compliance. One key way to do this is making sure to only serve clients 21 or older. That means learning how to spot fake identification (ID) cards is essential. Follow the tips below and you’ll stay compliant.

Acceptable forms of ID

A variety of forms of ID can be used at cannabis dispensaries. While exact requirements might vary by state, all of them have these common characteristics:

  • Name and signature
  • Date of birth
  • Photo
  • Government issued
  • Valid date of issue and expiration
  • Physical description (optional)

Types of IDs that fit those criteria include:

  • Government-issued driver’s license (in-state or out-of-state)
  • U.S liquor identification
  • U.S. military ID
  • U.S. merchant marine ID
  • Official passport from any country recognized by the U.S. / passport card / NEXUS / SENTRI card
  • Tribal enrollment card / ID

How to spot a fake ID

Verifying the many different types of accepted identification can be a challenge, but implementing a few safeguards and understanding what to expect can make all the difference.

Physical Description

Compare the physical description written on the ID (if there is one) to the person in front of you. If the customer is over six feet but his driver’s license lists him as five feet, something’s amiss. Check age / weight / height, and any prominent features. While some physical characteristics may change over time, paying special attention to those that remain roughly the same can make it much easier to catch an otherwise tricky fake ID.

Date of birth

If the date of birth they state is different from what is on the card, it could be a fake. Most people don’t forget their birthday. Just remember if it’s an out-of-country card, some countries flip the day and month. If the card is from another country, and they say July 5th, 1992 while the ID states 5/7/1992, it may be ok.

Visual inspection

Use your eagle-eyes to inspect the professionalism of the card. Thanks to the extreme specifics and detail of most state and federally issued documents, dispensary owners and operators have a lot to use for reference. State-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards often include security features like holograms or specially printed images. They are also usually, but not always, a shiny plastic. The I.D. Checking Guide is a useful tool for your staff that is used by government agencies at all levels as well as businesses. It provides a state-by-state breakdown of IDs and their key safety features.

Sense of touch

Does the texture feel appropriate? The most commonly used ID, a state-issued driver’s license, is typically very smooth. Are the edges ragged? It should have smooth edges.


Spelling errors on an ID card — such as the state name or other information — are a warning sign that the ID is a fake.


Look for signs the ID has been tampered with. If the signer’s photo on the ID seems unusually thick or stands out from the ID, it’s possible a second photo has been pasted or glued on top of the original. Other signs that an ID may have been tampered with are peeling or damaged laminate on the card, or blurry or smeared text.

ID scanners

ID scanners can provide an invaluable back-up to any human error in ID verification. The scanners don’t automatically retain any personally identifiable information to ensure consumer privacy. They primarily confirm whether the ID is legitimate or not. However, if customer consent is granted, scanners can establish customer profiles that can be used for analytics, point-based rewards, etc. Just be aware that there are fake IDs that scan. However, the information stored on fake IDs —address, name, date-of-birth, etc. — rarely if ever matches the information on the card.

Staff Training

Like any business, a dispensary is only as good as its staff. Training one’s dispensary staff to check IDs properly is of the utmost importance to remain compliant. Familiarize them with all state IDs, especially those that are close to your dispensary’s location.

To sum it up

Staying up-to-date on compliance changes related to IDs and their verification can be made easier with programs like ProCanna. The online application offers a huge range of cannabis regulatory compliance services — from state-specific support, to cloud-based data security — all in one place.

If you suspect a fake ID take a bit of time to consider what appears “off” about it. If the answer is superficial, like race, a change in hair color, or a new piercing, move on. If the answer is something more considerable like a large discrepancy in height or age: pose some verification questions.

Whether it be via a state-of-the-art ID scanner, or old-fashioned questioning, spotting fake IDs and inhibiting illegal cannabis purchases is essential for industry success. Implementing some of the services and techniques above can help you be fully informed and equipped to avoid penalties, fines or issues with regulators.